Messi, Modric, Ronaldo: Stars who might not feature at 2022 World Cup
The 2018 World Cup is just the beginning for players like Kylian Mbappe, but it might well mark the end of a glittering international career for several players who've either been to several tournaments or just the one. Nick Miller runs through 10 notables who might not be in the mix, or have already ruled themselves out, for 2022.
Rafa Marquez, DF/MF, Mexico: 39 years old
Playing in a World Cup is the highlight of many players' careers. Captaining your country in one is a dream. Rafa Marquez has done that five times but no more. He was technically already retired when he represented Mexico in Russia but carried on for just a few more games before calling it a day altogether, having made his first World Cup appearance in 2002. What's more remarkable is it could have been even more: he made his international debut in 1997, age 18, but wasn't picked for the 1998 tournament in France.
Tim Cahill, FW, Australia: 38 years old
Admittedly, Cahill didn't exactly star in Russia. Indeed, he only got off the bench once, thrown on in desperation for the final 37 minutes as time ticked away in Australia's final group game against Peru. But the Aussies have become World Cup stalwarts, carried along for much of the previous three tournaments by arguably their greatest ever player. Surely he won't be there next time: 42 is a ludicrous age for someone to still be playing professional football, but then again, 38 is pretty silly too. Rule him out for Qatar -- but maybe keep it to 90 percent certainty.
Felipe Baloy, DF, Panama: 37 years old
Amid all the great stories at this World Cup, perhaps lost among them was Felipe Baloy's goal against England. It was Panama's first goal at a World Cup finals because this was their first World Cup. And it could not have been scripted more perfectly that Baloy, their captain and the man whose goal earned them a place in Russia, was the man to score it. At first glance, the emphatic nature of their celebrations at a consolation in a 6-1 defeat might have looked strange but not when the wider story is considered. Baloy retired a happy man from international football after Panama's elimination.
Andres Iniesta, MF, Spain: 34 years old
Here's one we don't have to speculate about. Iniesta has confirmed that his time with the national team is done and that his life will now be playing for Vissel Kobe in Japan. "I'm leaving because my body's asking me to," he told the Guardian before the tournament. "When my body told me I couldn't give more, I knew. I understood: I have to get out. I've squeezed out every drop, there's nothing left." It's something of a shame that his last act in a Spain shirt was to watch his side lose to Russia on penalties, but he's had enough of a career. Scoring the winner in 2010 will nourish him if he ever regrets the way it ended.
Cristiano Ronaldo, FW, Portugal: 33 years old
Logically, of course Ronaldo is on this list. In human years he will be nearly 38 by the time the next World Cup is played. But in Ronaldo years, who knows? As part of his regime of self-preservation he may well cut out international football and keep being absurd for Juventus (nope, that's still weird...) but would you put it past him to have one more crack at the big prize? In theory the stage should be open for the next generation of otherworldly talents, but maybe Ol' Man Ronnie will still be around in 2018.
Vincent Kompany, DF, Belgium: 32 years old
In some respects it was a surprise that Vincent Kompany even made it to this World Cup. His body has seemingly been failing for a few years, fit enough for only 41 Premier League games over the past three seasons. Indeed, he was injured for the first two games of this World Cup and every time he stretched or went in for a challenge, Belgians around the world must have winced. He made it through relatively unscathed -- but will he want to put his body through another four years of this on the international stage?
Luka Modric, MF, Croatia: 32 years old
Because of the winter World Cup, Modric will have turned 37 by the time the next tournament comes around. For the type of player he is, one who doesn't rely on physicality or bursts of pace, perhaps it's just about possible to still be playing at that age. But a few times during Croatia's extra-time route to this year's final, Modric looked dead on his feet: still brilliant but starting to show his age. The final and Golden Ball was a (nearly) perfect time for him to bow out, so in a way it would be best if he wasn't still around in four years.
Diego Godin, DF, Uruguay: 32 years old
In some ways it was an advantage for Uruguay that the cornerstones of their current team are all roughly the same age. Godin, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani were all born within a year of each other, growing up and maturing together, but of course the flip side of that is they may all retire at similar times. They probably have a couple more years left in them but will they all be around by the time the next World Cup comes around? Almost certainly not.
Lionel Messi, FW, Argentina: 31 years old
At 35, Messi might be a relative stripling when Qatar rolls around. But more than his age, you wonder whether Messi has the emotional energy to go through all this again. He's already carrying Argentina, and that's with players like Javier Mascherano and Angel di Maria alongside him. Those two will probably be gone in four years, with the next generation of Argentinean players not looking especially promising. He's already retired from international football once, after losing the 2016 Copa Centenario, so who could blame him if he didn't want to go through the stress of all this pressure on him again?
Mesut Ozil, MF, Germany: 29 years old
Germany doesn't seem to be reacting too badly to their first-round exit. Recriminations have been limited except, that is, where Mesut Ozil is concerned. Ozil's style of play is always likely to frustrate some but a lot of the criticism aimed at him has carried sinister undertones, and former internationals like Oliver Bierhoff and Lothar Mathaus have seemed to scapegoat him. Even Reinhard Grindel, the president of the German FA, has criticised him. It's no wonder that Ozil's own father advised him to quit the national team and it's perfectly possible he'll do just that sooner rather than later.
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.